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Microsoft Office 365 debuts, gets slammed by Google


Microsoft debuted Office 365 today, taking on Google Apps for Business. (TOBIAS SCHWARZ - REUTERS)Microsoft took a stride into the cloud Tuesday with the launch ofOffice 365, a cloud-based suite of applications set to take on Google’s Web apps. The product aimed at the business users that represent a huge part of Microsoft’s base, though it faces a few hurdles.

The suite includes Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, Outlook and Lync, as well as other services depending on which package you choose. All packages have collaboration tools and online and offline syncing. Documents can be accessed through a desktop or mobile browser, and you can instant message and video chat, though there’s no telephone integration.

Plans for professionals and small businesses cost $6 per user, per month. For larger companies, the company has plans ranging from $10 to $27 per user, per month.

On Monday, Shan Sinha, a product manager for the suite’s main competitor, Google Apps, panned the new product on the Google’s Enterprise blog. Sinha said that, compared to Google Apps, Office 365 is antiquated, closed and costly.

“Before you invest ten years in the past, we’d humbly encourage you to invest ten minutes in today by checking out why so many businesses have chosen Google Apps,” Sinha said.

In the post, Sinha criticized Office 365 for its tiered pricing — Google offers its professional Apps service for $5 per month — and said that it is too tied to the PC, pointing out Google Apps work on any operating system and require no software.

For many businesses concerned about storing all their files on the Web, however, the fact that Office 365 lets users work online and offline may be a major selling point. And Microsoft has taken pains to court those companies not quite ready to make the full leap into the cloud by making its Web apps just about identical to Office, down to the formatting and the user interface.

Microsoft is banking on that familiarity to coax its users into using its new service. By working with the programs already running in millions of offices worldwise — Outlook, Office, etc. — it can market Office 365 as a way to ease into cloud computing instead of jumping.

Related stories:

Report: Windows 8 ready-to-manufacturers in April 2012

DOJ, Microsoft say Google Apps for Government isn’t up to standards

Outlook for Microsoft's move into cloud computing? Cloudy.

By |  09:54 AM ET, 06/28/20

"Approximately 28 percent of rural residents still lack access to the kind of broadband that most Americans take for granted," Federal Communications Commission Chairman Julius Genachowski said today as the FCC and the Department of Agriculture released a report calling for more federal help for bringing broadband, or better broadband, to rural areas.

The report uses as a standard high-speed Internet service of 3 megabytes per second, and says 26.2 million Americans lack access to such service. Of that number, 73 percent, or 19.1 million people, live in rural areas. Here is a summary of the report; here is the full report.

The National Rural Assembly, set for Tuesday through Thursday in St. Paul, Minn., will address the need for rural broadband. An advocate for it, FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn, will speak Wednesday, June 29.

"People may not think of high-speed Internet access as a necessity, but if your community doesn't have it, your businesses are not going to be able to compete, you're not going to get access to the same heath care, and your kids are going to be at a disadvantage in school," said Dee Davis, president of the Center for Rural Strategies and chair of the assembly steering committee. For more information go to http://www.ruralassembly.org/.
Posted by Al Cross

Technology company going after terrorists through 'Google ideas' 

Technology giant Google, having conquered the Internet and the world around it, is taking on a new challenge: violent extremism.

The company, through its eight-month-old think tank, Google Ideas, is paying for 80 former Muslim extremists, neo-Nazis, U.S. gang members and other former radicals to gather in Dublin this weekend to explore how technology can play a role in de-radicalization efforts around the globe.

The “formers,” as they have been dubbed by Google, will be surrounded by 120 thinkers, activists, philanthropists and business leaders. The goal is to dissect the question of what draws some people, especially young people, to extremist movements and why some of them leave.

“We are trying to reframe issues like radicalization and see how we can apply technology to it,” said Jared Cohen, the 29-year-old former State Department official who agreed to head Google Ideas with the understanding he would host such a conference. “Technology is part of every challenge in the world, and a part of every solution.”

In forming Google Ideas, company officials said, they were eager to move beyond the traditional think tank model of conducting studies and publishing books, saying their “think/do tank” would make action a central part of its mission.

But in its first venture, that decision to enter the space between thinking and doing is also drawing some criticism, as Google steps enthusiastically into what many view as an in trac table, enduring problem — and one that has traditionally been left to governments.

Google Ideas may be setting its sights too high, said Christopher Boucek of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, and getting terrorists to give up violence may be a more attainable goal than getting them to change their sympathies.

“You’ll never make a hardcore jihadi into a Jeffersonian democrat--it’s just not going to happen,” he said. He also noted that while there may be common threads to why individuals join extremists groups, the remedies to that problem are more likely to be “culturally, and even country, specific.”

Harvard University professor Joseph S. Nye Jr., who specializes in theories and application of power, agreed that the endeavor “could be problematic — especially if it is perceived to be in conflict with the foreign policy of the United States.” He added that the ambition could “complicate things further since profit is ostensibly involved.”

Officials at Google express little concern that their efforts are overly ambitious or will tread in others’ territory.

Google executive chairman Eric Schmidt said the company decided to get in the think tank business with the goal of tackling “some of the most intractable problems facing mankind by combining a new generation of leaders with technology. ... We’re not looking for silver bullets, but new approaches.”

Up to this point, efforts to reform extremists have largely been government-run and focused on distinct groups. Many of the programs have operated in Muslim countries, and their sponsors have struggled with whether it was enough to get radicals to disengage from extremist movements, or whether they must reject extremism and embrace mainstream values.

Cohen said the approach at the conference will be to treat extremism as a universal problem that cuts across cultural, ideological, political, religious and geographic boundaries. Bringing together former extremists from a range of backgrounds, he theorizes, could point to common factors that pull people into violence.

“If we compartmentalize different radicalization challenges, that also means we compartmentalize the de-radicalization solutions,” and that could be a lost opportunity, he said.

While he didn’t want to prescribe an answer, he said a campaign in the coming months could harness the power of YouTube, employ advanced mapping techniques or create alternative Web spaces to compete with radicalizing voices.

Cohen, a former aide to Secretaries of State Condoleeza Rice and Hillary Rodham Clinton who had focused at the State Department on counter-terrorism and radicalism, said he joined Google to escape some of the limitations on what can be done within a government agency to address extremism.

“You can’t build things,” said Cohen, noting that government often lacks the resources to create technologies aimed at complex social and political problems.

In his new job, heading a think tank supported by a company that earned $30 billion in sales last year, the limitations are quite different.

“There’s no sense in bothering with some of these challenges at a place like Google if we can’t take risks,” he said.

In the future, Cohen predicted, the think tank will take the challenges of fragile states, democracy building and questions regarding Internet and society.

Google Ideas, with six full-time employees working out of the company’s New York offices, is somewhat removed from the Washington environs where Cohen had operated for the past several years. He had become known at the State Department for bringing together unlikely participants, often in gatherings with a strong technology component.

In 2009, Cohen drew attention when he asked his friend, Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey, to delay a scheduled maintenance shutdown so protestors in Iran could coordinate during an uprising, and reach international media.

The White House had wanted to fire Cohen after the incident, out of concern the U.S. would be seen as meddling in Iranian affairs, according to a report in the New Yorker magazine, but he stayed in his job.

This weekend’s conference, formally known as the Summit Against Violent Extremism, or SAVE, will run Sunday through Tuesday.

Among the speakers will be T.J. Leyden, a former skinhead leader from California and now executive director of Hate2Hope. Leyden has said he began to turn away from the white supremacist movement as he watched his young children take on his anger and bigotry.

Another participant, Maajid Nawaz, is a British citizen of Pakistani descent who resigned from Hizb ut-Tahrir, a pan-Islamist group whose goal is to establish a global Islamic state and now leads an organization that counters Islamic extremism.

The conference will also include Carie Lemack, whose mother was killed in one of the planes that crashed into the World Trade Center. Lemack co-founded Global Survivors Network, an organization for victims of terrorism and produced the documentary “Killing in the Name.”

“The hope from the conference is that we will figure out some of the ‘best practices’ of how you can break youth radicalization,” said James M. Lindsay, a senior vice president at the Council on Foreign Relations, which is helping organize the summit.

Cohen also turned to the Tribeca Film Festival, which was founded to help bring people back to the lower Manhattan neighborhood following the Sept. 11 attacks.

Jane Rosenthal, co-founder of the festival, is making a film about de-radicalization that will draw on the work coming out of the conference. “You have to create deeper opportunities for involvement,” she said.

Follow Allen McDuffee’s reporting from the Google Ideas conference at Think Tanked and live updates on Twitter.

By Allen McDuffee, Friday, June 24, 10:09 AM

The Washington Post Company

How Newsrooms Can Win Back Their Reputations

 

The journalism industry ships lemons every day. Our newsrooms have a massive quality control problem. According to the best counts we have, more than half of stories contain mistakes -- and only 3 percent of those errors are ever fixed.

Errors small and large litter the mediascape, and each uncorrected one undermines public trust in news organizations. In Pew's last survey in September 2009, only 29 percent of Americans believed that the press "get the facts right."

lemon.jpg

Yet the tools and techniques to fix this problem are known and simple. I've been working in this area for the last two years. Here's a distillation of what I've learned: three basic steps any online news organization can take today to tighten quality control, reduce errors and build public trust.

    1. Link generously

    A piece without links is like a story without the names of its sources. Every link tells a reader, "I did my research. And you can double-check me."

  • Read more on the value of links: In Defense of Links.
    2. Show your work

    The news isn't static, and online stories don't have to be, either. Every article or post can and should be improved after it's published. Stay accountable and transparent by providing a "history" of every version of each story (à la Wikipedia) that lets readers see what's changed.

  • Read a longer argument for the value of versioning.
    Or try out the WordPress plugin.
    3. Help people report your mistakes

    The Internet is a powerfully efficient feedback mechanism. Yet many news organizations don't use it. Put a report-an-error button on every story: It tells readers you want to know when you've goofed. Then pay attention to what they tell you.

  • Get some report-an-error buttons at the Report an Error Alliance
    Or use the MediaBugs widget.

Why aren't these practices more widely adopted? Here are four reasons:

1. Workflow and tools
In many newsrooms, especially those still feeding print or broadcast outlets, it's still way too hard to fix errors or add links to a story for its web edition. And content-management systems don't yet offer corrections and history tools "out of the box."

2. Denial and avoidance
Other people make errors. Many editors and reporters don't believe the problem is serious, or think it doesn't apply to them. And most don't understand how badly their web feedback loop is broken.

3. Fear of readers
Many journalists view readers as adversaries. The customer they feel they're serving is an abstraction; the specific reader with a complaint is "someone with an agenda" whom they have a duty to ignore.

4. Where's the money?
Many media companies are in financial free-fall. Correction systems and trust-building tools don't bring in revenue directly, and they eat up product-development time and money.

These are serious obstacles. But journalists will never regain public trust unless we overcome them.

Ask journalists what sets them apart from everyone else sharing information online and we'll say: We care about accuracy. We correct our mistakes. In a changing media economy that's challenging the survival of our profession, we need to follow through on those avowals. Otherwise, we shouldn't be surprised when Pew's next biennial survey of public trust in the media shows even more dismal results.

Photo of lemons courtesy of flickr user CocteauBoy.


 

Hulu May Be Up For Sale, Yahoo May Be Buyer

 

Hulu LogoWe don’t tend to cover rumors here on WebTVWire, mainly because a lot of them turn out to be absolute bunkum. But the speculation that Hulu may be up for sale and that Yahoo is a potential buyer is simply too good a story to ignore.

Hulu For Sale?

According to The L.A. Times, Hulu is up for sale, with its owners News Corp., Walt Disney, Comcast, and Providence Equity actively seeking a buyer. Investment banks Guggenheim Partners and Morgan Stanley have been retained to facilitate a potential sale.

People “familiar with the matter,” which essentially means an inside source or two, has stated that prospective bidders have been given notice that the sales process will begin in two weeks time. Neither Hulu or the two banks have issued statements regarding this speculation.

Yahoo Interested?

The suggestion that Hulu has officially been put up for sale came a day after the news broke that Yahoo had tendered what was described as an “unsolicited offer” to purchase the company.

Yahoo hasn’t confirmed or denied this, but TechCrunch is claiming the Yahoo angle is complete BS. Michael Arrington has his own source denying what another source is telling theWall Street Journal and others. So the water is being muddied with every conversation.

But Why, Hulu, Why?

Why would its owners be selling Hulu at this juncture? After all it was only last year that the company was being prepared for a $2 billion IPO. Have things really gone downhill so badly since then?

I can only assume this potential desire to sell is because the media giants who own the company want different things. The problem for any potential buyer, be it Yahoo or otherwise, is that those companies provide the content. Would they really sell the company while still supplying the very thing that makes it worthwhile?

Conclusions

This is one story which will slowly unravel over a matter of weeks or even months. And we won’t know the whole truth until the companies involved actually announce their official intentions. In the meantime everything has to be taken with a pinch of salt.